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It's the start of a new year. And for me, the start of a renewed focus in my role at Olympic Software. For a couple of years now, I've been doing a lot of research into the social business concept and now it's time to start putting it into practice.

My quest is to learn and develop the social business concept at Olympic Software, so here goes. This is the first blog of a series in which I hope to share the ups and downs of my social business journey. I hope you'll follow me along the way and perhaps learn some lessons that you can use in your own businesses.

In December 2011, when my boss, Joe McLeod, first talked to me about the idea of transforming Olympic into a 'social business', I thought "what is that?".  I had just finished an Ecommerce degree at The University of Waikato and I was looking at career options. It was not a concept I was familiar with but his description of it really got me interested.

A way to improve collaboration, to drive innovation, enhance communication and connection, build a community for customers and lessen the need for traditional ‘push’ marketing. I was confused as to how it was possible. But I was also excited.

I have a visionary boss who is passionate about the future of work and the unlimited possibilities that exist with information communication technologies. Joe supports the idea of dispersed workforces (work from anywhere), which is lucky because I live 12kms outside of Raglan (rural NZ, one of the best surf breaks in the world) off-the-grid (i.e not connected to power lines).

Joe McLeod believes that in order for businesses to access their true value they need to be digital and connected. His job is to use the capabilities that Olympic Software has to offer to create real value for our customers; IT systems that deliver competitive advantage. Joe has been following many industry influencers for a long time, people such as Geoffrey Moore (author of Crossing the Chasm and Escape Velocity), Clay Shirky (Here comes everybody: The power of organising without organizations and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age), Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor and disruptive innovation expert.

Joe has a deep belief that social business is a crucial part of the future of work. And now, so do I.

But how do you introduce these concepts into an IT firm that has been in business for more than 25 years? A company that has experienced first-hand the huge shifts in technology. A company whose profitability had been badly affected by software vendors decreasing margins. The number one priority for Olympic was on revenue generation. The concept of social business was low priority.

With much excitement and a great deal of confusion I started work at Olympic Software in January 2012. Luckily I had a couple of projects to get started on that would ease my way into the Olympic culture and allow me time to get my head around this social business stuff.

These were some of the challenges I faced at the start of this journey:

  • How do you get support and build up enthusiasm for a concept that no one really understands (including myself)?
  • How could I be the champion for social business when I was struggling to find information about it or examples on how other companies had put it into practice (anywhere in the world, let alone New Zealand)?
  • How do you build a community that customers will come to when efforts so far had fallen short?
  • How do you get anyone on your staff blogging and using social media let alone the baby boomers?
  • How do you access the power of internal collaboration when teams are using different collaborative platforms?

Two years on, these challenges remain. After several different attempts, some sidetracks and a new baby (my third and final), I am no closer to the goal. I've decided it's time to change tack.

While research into ‘social business’ at the beginning of 2012 did not yield much useful information; fast-forward to the end of 2013 and now a ‘social business’ search produces a huge number of results.

One of these was to a blog “How to become a social business” by Dorie Clark. In it, she reviews Mark Fidelman’s book, “Socialized!: How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social”. Intrigued, I downloaded the book.

In the introduction, Fidelman says, “Through research and personal experience, we’ve discovered how to gain a long-term competitive advantage by combining new social and mobile technologies with the right culture to create a powerful growth machine that automatically adjusts to changing market conditions and unexpected black swan events. If this sounds too good to be true, then recognize that the transition to a social business is not an easy one, for there are still quite a few entrenched interests that must be moved aside or moved out.”

In this one sentence, Fidelman had outlined the social business concept, the opportunity and the major challenge that stood in the way. I was hooked. I read the book in three days.

Finally, I had found a resource that was useful. A book with real life examples, structured explanations and suggestions on how to put it all into practice.

I’m going to use Fidelman's book, (as well as advice and information from other Social Business experts such as Brian Solis, author of What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences) to try and push Olympic Software further toward our social business goal. In doing so, I hope to learn some valuable lessons that I can use to help our customers in their own social business journeys.

I’m sure there will be many ups and downs, some successes as well as failures; but if by the end of 2014, Joe can say that we’ve made some progress, then I’ll be happy.

Watch this space.

Tara Wrigley is a Consultant at Olympic Software NZ Ltd. Tara has a degree in Electronic Commerce from The University of Waikato and is currently working towards her Masters. Her field of interest is Social Business and understanding how to increase engagement with customers and staff to improve business outcomes. Tara works with the management team at Olympic to develop new Social Business strategies and initiatives. Follow her progress on Twitter @tswrigley, connect with her on LinkedIn, read about her social business journey in her blog articles or email her at taraw@olympic.co.nz.

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